Constipation is a common problem among people with Parkinson’s disease. It may appear years before other symptoms of Parkinson’s, and often appears before a diagnosis is made.

            Signs and symptoms of constipation include:

  • having fewer than three bowel movements per week
  • passing hard, dry, or lumpy stools
  • having to push or strain to have a bowel movement
  • painful bowel movements
  • feeling as though your rectum is blocked
  • feeling as though your rectum is full, even after having a bowel movement

            Constipation is among the most common gastrointestinal problems. According to a 2004 review in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, constipation affects between 12 to 19 percent of the population. It has many causes.

            Constipation and Parkinson’s Parkinson’s disease is often associated with motor symptoms. Typical motor symptoms include:

  • tremors
  • stiffness
  • slow movements

            Constipation is one of the most common non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. According to a review in the International Review of Neurobiology, up to 63 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease experience constipation. Constipation is a recognized risk factor in the development of Parkinson’s disease as well.

            How does Parkinson’s disease affect the digestive system? Parkinson’s disease has wide-ranging effects on the brain and the body, many of which researchers don’t fully understand. Several factors are believed to contribute to constipation among people with Parkinson’s.

Lack of dopamine: Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, is involved in controlling muscle movements. It sends signals that help your muscles to move.

            People with Parkinson’s have a lack of dopamine. This makes it more difficult for the bowel muscles to push matter through the GI tract, leading to constipation.

Anorectal changes: Research suggests that Parkinson’s disease impacts the physiology and functioning of both the anus and rectum. In one study from 2012, researchers found that people who’d been recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease were more likely to have reduced anal sphincter pressure.

Poor muscle coordination: Parkinson’s disease weakens the muscles of the bowels and pelvic floor. That means that those muscles may be unable to contract, or they might relax instead of contracting. Either of those malfunctions can make it difficult for a bowel movement to occur.

Poor posture and inactivity: Parkinson’s can lead to a hunched or bent posture. It can also make staying active a challenge. Both of these factors can make it more difficult to have a bowel movement.

Difficulty eating and drinking: Adequate consumption of fluids and dietary fiber help prevent constipation. Parkinson’s disease impacts the muscles required to chew and swallow. This can discourage people with the condition from consuming enough fiber and fluids.

Medication: A number of medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease and related symptoms can cause constipation. These include anticholinergic medications, such as trihexyphenidyl (Artane) and benztropine mesylate (Cogentin), and certain antidepressants, such as fluoxetine (Prozac).

Lack of dopamine sends signals that help muscles to move. People with Parkinson's have a lack of dopamine. This makes it more difficult for the bowel muscles to push matter through the GI tract, leading to constipation.

            You can look this subject up and find: There's no question that constipation that requires straining can put the cardiovascular system at risk by raising blood pressure. A sudden increase in blood pressure in the brain could increase the risk of stroke. Blood pressure can drop when using the bathroom. Straining while urinating or having a bowel movement stimulates the vagus nerve, and this raises acetylcholine levels in the body. Whether the blood pressure rises or falls precipitously, it is dangerous to the Person with Parkinson’s.

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Updated: August 16, 2017